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Late to the Party/Better Late Than Never?

NathanJ

Member
Messages
7
Good afternoon, controllers and ATC aficionados.

My name is Nate, and let's just say I'm going through a bit of a mid-life crisis... at 29. The TL;DR short explanation is that I used to be an entertainment technician, working the gig economy, COVID came, yada yada, and poof my career went up in smoke.

The long explanation is this (you've been warned, it's long):
I started attending a popular flight school/vocational college at 19 at the behest of the USAF, when I was in AFROTC, with the intent of becoming an aeronautical engineer. I did two years on AFROTC's dime before budget cuts in 2012 slammed the door on commissioning opportunities, and I ponied up my own cash (read: loans [yes, stupid]) to try to finish my degree. I was one year from finishing when my student aid was denied due to family financial difficulties, so I left college at 22 to work on my own. Spent four years saving up, by working the entertainment gig economy. It ended up becoming my career, to some extent, until I decided, at age 26, to go finish the degree I started. Of course, when I made that decision, I was counseled by my school to seek an easier degree since after four years of not using advanced calculus or physics, I was going to be behind the curve and end up taking a year or two's worth of remedials that I couldn't afford. So I chose Aeronautics, a blend of piloting, engineering, and ATC. ATC ended up being a ton of fun, but I didn't qualify for the CTI cert (?) unless I took (you guessed it) a few more years of classes. So, at age 28, I finished my degree in Aeronautics just in time for COVID to decide that both generic aviation AND entertainment jobs were going to hit rock bottom. Sweet.

So here I am now, with a bit of a crisis. Truth is, if I had known ATC was a more achievable career at 21, I wouldn't have bothered with everything else. Now that I know about it, I'd like to pursue it. I've done a bit of research and I see there's an age-out at 31. Can't go the military route (isn't reasonable, honestly), so I'm looking at a 2 year time limit to hit the Academy and pass.

This is going to sound very broad and vague, but... any advice, tips, tricks, ideas? I've already downloaded the .65Y and am studying phraseology, and I'm lucky to have old class notes from ATC classes I took that might help with the competitive side, but what else can I do to give myself the best chance of locking in a more enjoyable career? I should also mention: I really enjoyed terminal and TRACON simulations in my classes, so I think it's a career I could really find passion for.
 

NathanJ

Member
Messages
7
Read the FAQ
Apologies, should have stated I read through it already, and it certainly brought a lot of the process and details to the forefront, but I was thinking more of best practice and conceptualization. Any ideas along that line, or is the FAQ the be-all end-all of advice provided? I mean no offense, just trying to do due diligence.
 

NathanJ

Member
Messages
7
There's ANG which could get you atc experience and bump your age to 35 to be hired
Thanks, I'll add that to consideration. I might have misunderstood some of the military implications, was probably thinking more along the lines of enlisting. I'll have to see how ANG ties in with my wife's and my current situation. Thanks for the tip!
 

Mr.Tickles

Trusted Contributor
Messages
387
Stop studying everything. There's no need and if you get picked up you'll have plenty of time for studying. You'll do more harm than good.

You should absolutely apply to the next bid and then go on living life. Plan as if this isn't even a possibility. Then if you continue to progress great but keep living life and put nothing on hold for this until you've got a class date. This is a long progress even if everything goes smoothly for you.
 

NathanJ

Member
Messages
7
Stop studying everything. There's no need and if you get picked up you'll have plenty of time for studying. You'll do more harm than good.

You should absolutely apply to the next bid and then go on living life. Plan as if this isn't even a possibility. Then if you continue to progress great but keep living life and put nothing on hold for this until you've got a class date. This is a long progress even if everything goes smoothly for you.
I appreciate your blunt honesty, not enough of that these days, especially towards people in my position.

If you really believe that the studying is more harmful than beneficial, I can certainly put it off. My only real concern in that regard is that there seems to be a potential pass/fail bias towards people who are at least decent at ACID or phraseology out of the gate. Please correct me if I'm wrong, happy to be so, but I'm just trying to make the best of an opportunity.

I don't plan on putting anything on hold, but with 150 applications in to entry-level jobs with plenty of rejection letters, I have to put my best foot forward towards something, ANYTHING, that can put me to good use for a career. That's my mentality at least.
 

SharkBait

Trusted Contributor
Messages
328
I appreciate your blunt honesty, not enough of that these days, especially towards people in my position.

If you really believe that the studying is more harmful than beneficial, I can certainly put it off. My only real concern in that regard is that there seems to be a potential pass/fail bias towards people who are at least decent at ACID or phraseology out of the gate. Please correct me if I'm wrong, happy to be so, but I'm just trying to make the best of an opportunity.

I don't plan on putting anything on hold, but with 150 applications in to entry-level jobs with plenty of rejection letters, I have to put my best foot forward towards something, ANYTHING, that can put me to good use for a career. That's my mentality at least.
During the off the street hiring process you wont have to do any ACID or phrasology
 

Peter Gibbons

Legendary Member
FAA
Messages
1,150
Facility
OKC Oklahoma City Tower
Don't bother studying anything. Good iniative, but kinda pointless. I honestly wouldn't bother touching anything till you get to academy land and they tell you what you need to know. Things change in this career field and there's lots of stuff in the 65 that are clear as mud till you apply them, not to mention depending on the type of fac you end up at, a good 1/3 to 2/3 of the book won't even apply to you in a direct sense.

Apply for every and all bids you qualify for (sounds like genpub bids are your best bet) and hope for the best.

Don't expect an instant callback, in the best case scenario it's a months-long process. I had experience coming in and it took me about 16 applications on various types of bids over 3 or 4 years to even start the hiring process, and about 14 months or so to start once that process started. Like they other guy said, best bet is to set up a job alert for all the bids you qualify for, apply and forget about it till you get an email. You'll drive yourself into anxiety and depression otherwise.
 

NathanJ

Member
Messages
7
Don't bother studying anything. Good iniative, but kinda pointless. I honestly wouldn't bother touching anything till you get to academy land and they tell you what you need to know. Things change in this career field and there's lots of stuff in the 65 that are clear as mud till you apply them.

Apply for every and all bids you qualify for (sounds like genpub bids are your best bet) and hope for the best.

Don't expect an instant callback, in the best case scenario it's a months-long process. I had experience coming in and it took me about 16 applications on various types of bids over 3 or 4 years to even start the hiring process, and about 14 months or so to start once that process started. Like they other guy said, best bet is to set up a job alert for all the bids you qualify for, apply and forget about it till you get an email. You'll drive yourself into anxiety and depression otherwise.
Extremely thorough answer, thanks for taking the time!

I will add "apply to all genpub bids" to my list of things to do. You mentioned "experience coming in." I have (very) little "experience" in terms of the CTI classes I took at my flight school. Do those mean anything, or because they did not conclude with a full CTI referral are they worth little to nothing? I won't be offended or surprised if they have no value, just curious how four semesters of ATC classes at a CTI-qualified school factor in, if at all. Is that knowledge worth refreshing or should I chuck it out to avoid the infamous "retroactive inhibition"?
 

meta.rick

Member
Messages
8
Stop studying everything. There's no need and if you get picked up you'll have plenty of time for studying. You'll do more harm than good.

You should absolutely apply to the next bid and then go on living life. Plan as if this isn't even a possibility. Then if you continue to progress great but keep living life and put nothing on hold for this until you've got a class date. This is a long progress even if everything goes smoothly for you.
TRUE FACTS!
 

Peter Gibbons

Legendary Member
FAA
Messages
1,150
Facility
OKC Oklahoma City Tower
Extremely thorough answer, thanks for taking the time!

I will add "apply to all genpub bids" to my list of things to do. You mentioned "experience coming in." I have (very) little "experience" in terms of the CTI classes I took at my flight school. Do those mean anything, or because they did not conclude with a full CTI referral are they worth little to nothing? I won't be offended or surprised if they have no value, just curious how four semesters of ATC classes at a CTI-qualified school factor in, if at all. Is that knowledge worth refreshing or should I chuck it out to avoid the infamous "retroactive inhibition"?
To put it bluntly, as far as big FAA is concerned (as well as any controller at a facility) no, you have no experience. Full on Cti school isn't even experience. It's school. Real world applications and book learning/simulators are not the same as experience in this field. Even some real experience isn't applicable to the FAA, like navy guys with shipboard quals, army guys who exclusively did tactical atc, etc.

Absolutely put it on a resume, but don't expect the FAA to deem you instantly qualified because of it, and if you get hired don't walk in expecting people to acknowledge it as worthwhile either.

Ya again, I wouldn't look at anything really. No point learning or refreshing anything as you don't know where you will end up, if at all, and what changes are gonna be made to the rules between now and then, much less on your old info you may have from schooling.
 

NathanJ

Member
Messages
7
To put it bluntly, as far as big FAA is concerned (as well as any controller at a facility) no, you have no experience. Full on Cti school isn't even experience. It's school. Real world applications and book learning/simulators are not the same as experience in this field. Even some real experience isn't applicable to the FAA, like navy guys with shipboard quals, army guys who exclusively did tactical atc, etc.

Absolutely put it on a resume, but don't expect the FAA to deem you instantly qualified because of it, and if you get hired don't walk in expecting people to acknowledge it as worthwhile either.

Ya again, I wouldn't look at anything really. No point learning or refreshing anything as you don't know where you will end up, if at all, and what changes are gonna be made to the rules between now and then, much less on your old info you may have from schooling.
Heard. Understood. Acknowledged. Great actionable advice from everybody here, thank you! Job alerts set up on USAjobs, won't study my eyes out of their sockets, and will definitely loiter for wisdom here! Really, really appreciate it. This thread has done more for me than a multitude of "job counselors" have done for me in the state of Florida.
 

meta.rick

Member
Messages
8
Good luck bro
Heard. Understood. Acknowledged. Great actionable advice from everybody here, thank you! Job alerts set up on USAjobs, won't study my eyes out of their sockets, and will definitely loiter for wisdom here! Really, really appreciate it. This thread has done more for me than a multitude of "job counselors" have done for me in the state of Florida.
 

Shikaka

Legendary Member
Messages
2,234
Someone else said it as well, just be persistent on the applications and continue life as if ATC isn't a thing. Tons of people make this career their sole goal in life, and the massive majority never get through the application process, then around half fail the academy, then more fail at their facilities.

Be realistic, those who are in as controllers are lucky among those who have failed or never had a chance at this career. Make this an alternative, but not a goal, and even going through the academy and the first facility have a backup plan careerwise.
 

NathanJ

Member
Messages
7
Someone else said it as well, just be persistent on the applications and continue life as if ATC isn't a thing. Tons of people make this career their sole goal in life, and the massive majority never get through the application process, then around half fail the academy, then more fail at their facilities.

Be realistic, those who are in as controllers are lucky among those who have failed or never had a chance at this career. Make this an alternative, but not a goal, and even going through the academy and the first facility have a backup plan careerwise.
I get that sentiment, I really do. At this point ATC really is my backup plan, so I'll have to make a plan Z. I understand patience and failure. Watching my industry go from 1.2M employed to under 12,000 really shook me and what little I understand of reality. So I have no plans on being heartbroken; I just want to put my fingers into as many cookie jars as I can, in hopes one of them has something good at the bottom. :)
 

dingalings99

Member
Messages
39
What you can do is be studying for the ATSA because you need a best qualified score to maximize your chances of getting a TOL. I recommend the atcprep.com software and LSAT logical reasoning tests that's what helped me
 

sumtingwon

Member
Messages
25
I know everyone's situation is different, but if you can swing it, I would DEFINITELY try and go the ANG or USAF route. I believe age limit is now 39. Reason why is cause I would NOT bank on getting into the FAA seeing as you may not get a TOL by your 31st bday. Also with previous USAF experience you have more doors open to you like contract jobs as well as DoD. You will also be able to pretty much apply for any new hire position in the FAA including VRA.

Even if you went active duty and then got picked up by the FAA (while you were active), you can always usually take an IMA slot and still do the FAA.
 

Dsilvaja

Member
Messages
2
Extremely thorough answer, thanks for taking the time!

I will add "apply to all genpub bids" to my list of things to do. You mentioned "experience coming in." I have (very) little "experience" in terms of the CTI classes I took at my flight school. Do those mean anything, or because they did not conclude with a full CTI referral are they worth little to nothing? I won't be offended or surprised if they have no value, just curious how four semesters of ATC classes at a CTI-qualified school factor in, if at all. Is that knowledge worth refreshing or should I chuck it out to avoid the infamous "retroactive inhibition"?
To add to what others have said, previous experience only really matters when you choose what pool you apply to. It also needs to be certifiable, meaning you'd have to have a degree for it. You could put it on your resume but the only reason they look at your resume is to verify that you meet the minimum requirements for applying. Being selected is solely based on how you do on the ATSA. The previous experience could come in handy once you get to the academy, but from what I understand the FAA does things much differently from the military and CTI, and then the academy does things differently from out on the field.
 
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